There has never been a better time to be an international lawyer. International Law is at last emerging as a sophisticated legal system, in an international society experiencing take-off – to borrow two metaphors from development economics.
International Law is living its own 1860’s. From the 1860’s, especially in European countries and the United States, the forms of law multiplied prolifically to respond to the vastly greater complexity and energy of society. Legal fragmentation and institutional innovation were an expression of self-transforming social vitality – as they are now in the emerging international society.
International lawyers are the most privileged of all lawyers. International Law is the law of all laws, the law of the whole human world. International lawyers are front and centre in the drama of making the new international society.
But there’s something that greatly limits the part we can play in the project of making the law of the new international society. The international world suffers from a grotesque poverty of philosophy. That phrase – ‘poverty of philosophy’– was used by Karl Marx in 1847 to criticise the situation at the level of national society.
Our predecessors at the national level had the great advantage that they could use thirty centuries of intense thought about the forms of law and order required for the good life lived in a good society.
The grotesque poverty of philosophy at the international level means that the international world has one big idea. Everything else is a deduction from that one big idea.
The one big idea is that the international world is not a social phenomenon but an anomalous excrescence from national societies, an exogenous unsocial dependent reality, isolated from the vast intellectual superstructure required for the survival and prospering of national society.
Re-imagining the one big idea of the international world is an exciting challenge for those of us who think for a living. It is an exciting challenge for international lawyers. And it is a particularly delightful challenge for those of us who are philosophical idealists. Read the rest of this entry…